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[John J. Kim/Sun-Times]

Mike Austin's cover story about chefs taking the casual eatery route resulted in some very delicious-looking photos of wallet-friendly food that very likely will send you running to said casual eateries to satisfy your sandwich/noodle/taco craving. Place a towel over your keyboard and click away.

And as this cheap chic movement barrels along, here's something else to get behind (or, technically, in front of): the walk-up window. Big Star touts its walk-up window; the latest to do so is Taco Joint, which opened this week at 1969 N. Halsted (though its window won't actually be operational for a few more weeks).

The idea is nothing new, of course, but always appreciated, whether you're walking up for tacos al pastor, sugared waffles or a Tastee-Freez.

His and hers food porn

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Remember our food photo contest?

Our winner, Sharlene King, 27, took the top prize for her casually scrumptious shot (above) of a chicken sandwich, made for lunch one weekend in her Andersonville apartment.

On Friday, King fulfilled her prize: a day in the studio of Chicago food photographer Stephen Hamilton, our judge for the contest.

Hamilton thought it would be fun to recreate King's photo. That process took hours and involved many scenes like this:

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"I wanted to keep it light and airy and summery with the color palate," Hamilton says. "There were a lot of natural elements of her sandwich, which is what really attracted me ... Really subtle peas coming out of the pea pods. So, I tried to keep a lot of those original elements."

After more than 100 shots (typical for a shoot of this nature), Hamilton and his team finally got the one they wanted. You'll notice (then, again, maye you won't) subtle char marks on the roasted peppers. The bread has more of an "artisan-baked feel."

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The experience left King, who works in digital design, impressed and exhausted.

"I'm both jealous and I totally don't want their job," King says. "It's a lot of fun but it's very tedious and detailed."

And now, for even more fun, check out the stop-motion video King made, using Hamilton's shots, of the sandwich's path to studio perfection:

Miffed that your photo of chocolate-dipped, salt-flecked bacon didn't get recognition in our reader photo contest? Or just curious as to why our judge, photographer Stephen Hamilton, ended up choosing the photos he did? Hear it from the man himself on his blog, Who's Hungry. Hamilton includes his thoughts on our grand-prize winning photo, the four finalists and several others that caught his eye.

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Here you go, folks: The winner of our first ever Food Photo Contest is ... Sharlene King and her simply delectable chicken sandwich!

King, 27, is an Andersonville resident and a techie by day who works in digital design. She (kind of) maintains a blog and last year went to the casting call for "Masterchef," the Fox show in development starring Gordon Ramsay and Chicago's Graham Elliot Bowles. She made salmon and grouper with an arugula salad for the judges. "I guess I didn't pass muster," she says blithely.

King made this sandwich last summer to use up some farmers market produce she had, including sugar snap peas she'd pickled herself and freeze-dried shallots from the Spice House on Wells. For all you camera geeks, hers for this shot was a 2003 Sony Mavica. "Not even a digital SLR. It uses a CD instead of a card. It's not old-school, it's just old," she says.

"That sandwich does it," said our guest judge, culinary photographer Stephen Hamilton. "It's not perfect."

Click here to see our four talented finalists, and here for the other entries. And thanks to all who played the game. What do you think -- should we do this again sometime?

And while we're (or, rather, you're) at it with this whole taking pictures of food thing, this just popped in our inbox: Food52, one of the more creative Web-based foodie concepts out there now not to mention a prolific recipe generator, is holding a travel food photo contest! Way more rules than ours, but those prizes are pretty cool.

You have until the end of today to enter the Sun-Times Food Photo Contest! A reminder: photos have to be of something you cooked, not a dish you ordered in a restaurant, however lovely it may appear.

Thanks to all who have sent in entries so far. There are some beauts. This one gave us the biggest chuckle:

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These are making us hungry:
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The winners will be announced in next week's Food pages. There are some lovely cookbooks in it for four lucky shutterbugs. And, for the grand prize winner: a day-in-the-life-of-food-pornographer-Stephen-Hamilton experience.

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OK, eaters, you have one more week to enter our first ever Food Photo Contest.

Check out our site here for the entries that have come in thus far. (Those are homemade Oreos above, shot by one Katie Mays of Chicago. Mmmm, homemade Oreos.)

This is your competition. Study, size up, assess. Then: cook something, make it look pretty, photograph it and submit it at suntimes.com/win. You can enter up to three photos.

Grand prize is a half-day watching culinary photographer Stephen Hamilton work (there will probably be noshing involved; there is always food in his studio). He's the real deal. Four second-prize winners will get cookbooks.

Deadline to enter is May 12.

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For those of you who read today's story on Stephen Hamilton and wonder what he does with all the food he gets from clients...

The food that is cooked, handled and primped for the camera gets tossed. Extras that go untouched -- and there often is quite a bit, since clients send food by the case lot -- are donated to food pantries. Staffers sometime take home food that doesn't fit within the strict guidelines for pantry donations. And the rest gets tossed.

"There's a lot of waste in this business," admits Hamilton, who is developing a charity portion of his business as a centralized way to donate extra food.

Want more behind the scenes? Check out his Who's Hungry blog, chronicling a day in his life and offering recipes, video clips and more photography advice.

And here's a taste of Hamilton's appearance on tonight's "Top Chef Masters":

Hey you, with the camera - stop pissing off the chefs. Take your camera back home for dinner, and enter our inaugural Sun-Times food photo contest!

We want to see your best food photos, shots you've taken of food you've cooked, photos that are going to make us hungry. Submit up to three photos at suntimes.com/win by May 12, for a chance to win a behind-the-scenes session with Chicago culinary photographer Stephen Hamilton (four runners-up will get some pretty sweet cookbooks).

Chances are, you've seen Hamilton's work without knowing it. He's shot for McDonald's, Starbucks, Quaker and Kraft. He'll be our judge for the contest, and having spent some time with him in his West Fulton studio, we can attest that the guy is the master at food porn.

A little trivia: Who came up with that phrase anyway?

"Julia Child -- that's what I always heard," Hamilton says.

We couldn't confirm that with Julia, obviously, but the first reference we could find to 'food porn' comes not from within the cooking or restaurant worlds, but from the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The food police, if you will. The nutrition watchdog group has published a column called Food Porn in its Nutrition Action Healthletter since 1974, in which it pits a processed or packaged food against a nutritious one.

Executive director Michael Jacobson takes credit for coining the term.

"I think we were probably just figuring how we could lampoon junk foods and put it in Nutrition Action," he said. "And it's long been our readers' favorite part of the newsletter."

Speaking of junk food, that's another of Jacobson's phrases, "if you believe Wikipedia," he says. "I know historians have tried to track down the first use of the term and found those words coming out of my mouth or pen, but I suspect those words have been widely bandied about informally for a while. 'Empty calories' has also been attributed to me."

These days, "food porn" is playfully bandied about as a reference to impossibly luscious photos of food. Fish purveyor extraordinaire Carl Galvan posts links to "fish porn" all the time on his Twitter feed. But in Jacobson's world, the phrase still suggests what it always has -- "foods that are obscene, just shameful to have in the marketplace."

About the blog

Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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